March 17, 2004

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Contact: Sue Suhler, Kansas Space Grant Consortium, (785) 864-3999,

KU leads space consortium to fund high school robotics teams

LAWRENCE -- A grant of $100,000 from the Kansas Space Grant Consortium, based at the University of Kansas, is helping eight Kansas high school robotics teams enter the US FIRST Robotics Competition 2004. The grant comes from NASA funding allocated to KU.

The competition, sponsored by NASA and the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Foundation, challenges teams of students and their mentors to solve a common problem in a six-week timeframe using a standard "kit of parts" and a common set of rules. Teams build robots from the parts and enter them in a series of competitions.

There are 26 regional competitions. Teams from Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park and Newton High School competed in the St. Louis regional March 11 through 13. Axtell High School, Nemaha Valley High School in Seneca and Central Heights High School in Richmond will compete in the Colorado regional March 25 through 27. Lawrence High School, Paola High School and Parsons High School will compete in the Lone Star regional in Houston April 1 through 3.

The eight Kansas teams consist of hundreds of students, teachers, mentors and engineers from local industries. The teams started working on their robots in January.

During the six-week project, each team will design, construct and control a remote-controlled robot to race around a playing field collecting and passing 13-inch balls to human players, who then shoot the balls into fixed and moveable goals. Additionally, robots may attempt to hang from a 10-foot bar.

In its 13th year, the competition expects its largest season ever with 935 teams, including 220 rookie teams, representing Brazil, Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom and every state in the United States. In addition to the regional competitions in March and April, the championship event will be April 15 through 17 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Teams are rewarded for excellence in design, demonstrated team spirit, gracious professionalism and maturity, and ability to overcome obstacles. The winning team will receive a trophy.

The Kansas Space Grant Consortium is a NASA-supported organization with the mission to enhance aerospace education and research in Kansas. In addition to KU, which is the lead institution, the consortium academic members are Kansas State University in Manhattan, Emporia State University, Fort Hays State University, Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Pittsburg State University and Wichita State University.

A non-university member in the consortium is the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center in Hutchinson, and the industrial representative is Leland Johnson Jr. of Raytheon Aircraft Co. in Wichita. New affiliates are Ad Astra Kansas News; Exploration Place, a science museum in Wichita; the Kansas Association of Community College Trustees; and the Ride into History Cultural and Educational Program.


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